Schloss Neuhaus

Schloss Neuhaus
Seat of the Margrave

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Orders - Fetch Officer!

"So, von Smallhausen, have you had time yet to verify General Himmelstoss' calculations?"

"Indeed, Your Highness. The estimable General seems - I dare say, for once - to be absolutely correct. By adopting sea-transport, the time taken to transport supplies from Ober Nord Westfalen is reduced by between one quarter and one third, depending always on wind and weather and the will of God! Moreover, Your Highness, by transporting large quantities in bulk, the cost of transport is reduced by a similar amount."

"Good! Very good! Let me see that map.... ah, yes...Oostende would be the logical port of arrival, unless we can gain access to the Scheldt! so, a letter to Herr General Himmelstoss, if you please. He is to instigate water-borne transport forthwith, and is to move his centre of operations, under a reliable deputy to Oostende. The Herr General is to remain in Ober Nord Westfalen to ensure that everything goes smoothly in that place. To be ready for signature first thing in the morning, if not before."

"Very good, Your Highness. Now if Your Highness will indulge me?"

"Yes, what is it?"

"I have received a communication from..."

"Yes! Come in! Von Rabensthal, what is it?"

"I beg Your Highness' pardon for this intrusion, but there is an Englischer Offizier just arrived with despatches from the Herzog von Marlbrouk. As far as I can understand him, he insists that he see you at once!"

"Very well, I am at home, and perfectly available to meet visitors, show the gentleman in... Oh, and von Rabensthal, you speak Englisch, do you not?"

"Why, yes, Your Highness. Well, after a fashion that is..."

"Very well, it might be advantageous if you stayed. Show the gentleman in."

"Your Highness?"

"Yes."

"The Margrave of Ober Nord Westfalen?"

"Yes."

"Sir, If I may introduce myself: I am Captain, er... Kapitan..., er... Hauptmann! Hauptmann Robert Manners, of His Majesty's second Regiment of Horse, on duty as an extra Aide de Camp to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough, and at your service, sir!"

"A good evening to you Captain. Tell me, would you be more comfortable if we spoke in English?"

"By God Sir! I would indeed! Thank you! Sir, I am commanded by his Grace, the Duke of Marlborough, to deliver into your hands this package. His Grace desires that you make a movement to the south-west, in order that our armies may be better placed to act in concert should the need arise."

"I see. But, tell me, Captain, if that is the meat of the matter, why the despatch?"

"Sir, His Grace is aware that your had previously been imposed upon by an individual representing himself as a member of His Majesty's army, and in order that no such further deception may occur, His Grace has taken the precaution of reducing his wishes to writing!"

"I see. Well, Captain, I must, perforce read these desires, that His Grace has taken the trouble to write. Von Rabensthal, pray be so good as to provide refreshment for the good Captain. If you will excuse me, captain?"

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Fall Out

"Good Evening, Your Highness, Herr Hauptman."

"Good Evening, von Rabensthal - what's this, more despatches?"

"Ah, not exactly, Your Highness... it should seem that this a pouch of letters from the Schloss. There are several for Your Highness, and two for the Herr Hauptmann..."

"Good! Well, don't just stand there man, hand them over! Ah, Herr Flick, Herr Flick, General von Postler - more complaints about Flick, I should suppose. Another from Herr Flick - I wonder if he writes to complain of the Herr General? Ah... one..., two..., three from Her Highness! That should keep me quiet for an hour or so" - have you seen my lady's hand writing, von Smallhausen? Quite indecipherable - even when she doesn't write in Bohemian!"

"If Your Highness, will allow...?"

"Yes, von Rabensthal?"

Your Highness, Herr General von Willich presents his respects, and requests an interview."

"Very well, when is a convenient time?"

"Your Highness misunderstands me; the Herr General is in the ante-chamber and respectfully requests that you see him now."

"Oh, he does, does he. H'mm... I had meant to read my correspondence before dinner, but if the Herr General wishes to speak about that which I suspect, then I shall save the letters, so that they may restore my contentment. Very well, ask the Herr General to come in - no von Smallhausen, there is no need for you to leave."

"Your Highness, General von Willich begs the indulgence of some few moments of your time!"

"Yes, Herr General, I am aware. What is it that is so urgent?"

"Your Highness, I am come to intercede on behalf of Major Kramer."

"Yes, go on."

"Your Highness's actions this afternoon have shaken - badly shaken - the officer corps' trust in Your Highness's governance of the army. It is generally felt that although Major Kramer is, perhaps at fault, that Your Highness's actions were peremptory, over-drastic and arbitrary. Good officers have been heard to wonder if they too shall be summarily dismissed as a result of occurrences outwith their control"

"But that is just the point, Herr General; the occurrences which led to my dismissal of Major Kramer were not outside his control! There is no 'perhaps' in the question of his culpability. He is - was - the bataillon commander and is responsible for everything that occurs with his command. That dictum, Herr General, holds true for every officer in the army. You command the foot, therefore I hold you equally to blame for the shameful state of affairs currently pertaining. I should not have been compelled to intervene; action to rectify the situation should have been taken by Kramer's regimental commander, and you, Herr General, should have seen that it was so! As I said this afternoon, your soldiers are my subjects. I have the right, the duty and responsibility to ensure that while they serve in my army, they receive as much care and attention as it is possible to afford them. I have no wish to be remembered by history as the Margraf who lost his army before they had fired a shot."

"Your Highness. I am deeply ashamed of my own failings in this matter, and I assure you that I do not absolve myself from blame - I have made much the same sort of speech to my Obersts this afternoon, but at the same time, I beg of you to reconsider your decision. The punishment, Your Highness, does not fit the crime."

"Do you dare to stand there and criticise me, Herr General?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"I thought so! Herr General, I find myself, unwillingly perhaps, in some degree of sympathy with your position. It had always been my intention that after a period of reflection, in which he might consider his failings, to have Major Kramer restored to duty. However, Major Kramer has made it impossible for me to rescind my orders."

"May I ask how, Your Highness?"

"As you will recall, I instructed Major Kramer to hand over his bataillon and report here. He has not done so. I despatched member of my staff, and a file of musketiers to remind Kramer of his orders. On reaching his quarters they found that he had vanished. His rooms were empty, he his servants, his horses, his carriage and his groom are all disappeared. I am on the point of sending a despatch to the Schloss, requiring that when Kramer returns to Ober Nord Westfalen, that he is placed under arrest for desertion, and held in custody until I shall see fit to adjudicate his case. So you see, Herr General, it is now impossible, under any circumstances for Kramer to be reinstated. It is his family for whom I feel sorry; the shame will be almost unsupportable."

"I may put your mind at rest, Your Highness. Major Kramer has no family. He is not married, and is an only child. His parents are both deceased."

"A blessing in disguise, indeed, Herr General."

"If Your Highness says so!"

"Indeed I do. Was there anything else, Herr General? No..., then thank you. It is gratifying to know that, apart from the impact of this salutary lesson, at least one of my Officers is willing to tell me that he thinks I have made an error of judgement."

"Your Highness!"

"Well, von Smallhausen... just as you predicted! It really is odd, that a dedicated officer like Kramer should choose to indulge in disobedience at such a time!"

"Indeed, Your Highness; yet I am sure that Major Kramer is even now diligently carrying out his orders!"

"Oh, I hope so, I really do hope so, von Smallhausen!"

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Shock Tactics

"Abteilung - Stille gestande!"

"Are all all present?"

"Yes, Your Highness, as ordered! Three General Officers and the commander of each regiment and bataillon."

"Gentlemen, you are here because you labour under my gravest displeasure!"

"Your Highness, in what manner have we displeased you, I ..."

"Herr General! You are at attention! Gentlemen - and I use the term advisedly - I am appalled! I have here this week's sick report for the entire army - and what do I find from perusing this list? I find that over thirty percent - that is out of every ten men, three, are sick of a bloody flux! I repeat - I am appalled! What are you about!? I find upon further investigation - did you think my visits of this morning were a social call? I find that the regulations laid down for the siting and use of watering points are disregarded on every hand! Let me make our relative positions absolutely clear: I command - you obey, is that clear? Good! Now, I am no medical man, therefore I take pains to appoint as Physician-General to the Army one of the most qualified practitioners of the art that can be found within the borders of Ober Nord Westfalen, and - ! and to make it sufficiently clear to all, I grant this excellent physician a commission as Physician General - note, Gentlemen: Physician General. That, Gentlemen means that he outranks, absolutely, all but three of you. And in matters concerning the health of the army he outranks those three. Further, when issuing medical directives, the Herr Doktor Arzt-General speaks with my voice! I do not expect you to disobey my orders, ergo, I do not expect you to disobey medical directives issued by that gentleman. The Herr Doktor Arzt-General's directives concerning the siting and use of water points are to be implemented immediately. You may each expect a further visit from me within the next two days!"

"Major Kramer?"

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"Major Kramer, I find that your bataillon has a sick rate approaching fifty percent. This situation argues for gross negligence; therefore, you are relieved of your command. Hand over your bataillon to your senior Hauptmann and return to my Headquarters, there to await my arrival pending your further disposition - you are dismissed."

"Gentlemen, you look as if you had seen a ghost! Let me make my position known unto you! Your soldiers are my subjects. It is one thing - bad enough - to ask them to lose their lives in the face of the enemy, it is another thing - and a much worse thing - a shameful thing - to let them die of neglect. Let Major Kramer's fate be a lesson to you all! You are dismissed!"

Monday, 18 May 2009

Prodigality and Profligacy

"Von Smallhausen! What are you doing here?"

"Yes, and a good morning to you, Your Highness, Leutnant."

"Herr Hauptmann."

"Er... yes, of course. good morning, von Smallhausen, but I repeat: What are you doing here? Why are you not in your bed?".

"Your Highness, to your first, I am returning to duty. To your second, If I stay any longer in bed, I shall grow saddle sores, and take even longer to recover. In all seriousness, Your Highness, I have been absent from duty for far too long, and although I am deeply grateful for your forbearance, I have prevailed upon the good Herr Doktor to release me for duty."

"Are you quite sure about this, von Smallhausen?"

"I could not be more certain of anything, Your Highness."

"H'mm... I hesitate to give you the lie direct, von Smallhausen, but the Herr Doktor assured me it would be ten days before you were back on your feet."

"Indeed, Your Highness, he promised me the same, but I was able to persuade him that I would make a swifter recovery if I could be usefully employed, rather than laying in bed and fretting."

"Well, if that should be the case, then I think, that a small celebration to mark your return to duty is in order. Von Rabensthal, I believe the rogue of a land lord at De Gouden Gans has a store of some excellent twelve-year old burgundy. Pray, take yourself thence, and bring back a bottle - no, stay - make that two bottles."

"Now, Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen, that von Rabensthal is out of the way, you and I have a crow to pluck!"

"Indeed, Your Highness?"

"Yes! Indeed! Did you not solemnly affirm to me that your injury was due to act of hubris and carelessness on your part - resulting in a fall from your horse?"

"Ah, not quite, Your Highness."

"Von Smallhausen, I distinctly remember you saying that it was all carelessness on your part."

"Indeed it was, Your Highness."

"But... but you have just said 'not quite'?"

"Just so, Your Highness."

"What then, von Smallhausen, is 'just so' and what is 'not quite'?"

"Your Highness, I was telling the truth when I say that the injury was my fault, however I was guilty of misleading you when I allowed you to suppose that it was the result, rather than the cause, of my falling from my horse."

"So, von Smallhausen, you received the injury before you fell?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"I see. And this injury left a sliver of metal in your flesh?"

"So it should seem, Your Highness."

"Now, von Smallhausen, I must have been extraordinarily obtuse, because, until the Her Doktor told me of the metal - ah, steel, I believe - in your shoulder, I failed to make the connection between the sudden cessation of attacks upon my officers, by a member of the Elector's forces, and your wound. However, while you have been confined to your bed, I was entertained by two Fahnenjunkern who - and their buttocks have smarted for it - recounted to me a remarkable tale of youthful stupidity, vaunting ambition, a foolhardy plan and the thwarting of that plan by yourself!"

"Oh."

"Yes, indeed 'oh'. So, am I to take it that you challenged this Hannunteran Officer and received your wound in that manner?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"So, in what manner can be it blamed on carelessness?"

"Your Highness, I have no wish to brag, nor to confess that particular act of stupidity."

"Understood. But I shall know what happened."

"Very well, Your Highness, if you must have it so. As you have guessed, I provoked the Hannunteran, a Rittermeister Pataki, into drawing his sword. My intention had been to humiliate him, and to deliver a crippling wound. Alas, I was not able to do so."

"How so?"

"Your Highness, he was an accomplished swordsman. And in a very few passes, I realised that he was as good, if not better than myself. We were evenly matched, and I was only able to defend, until his point dropped in a feint, and I launched a coup de deux veuves..."

"A what?"

"A new attack, Your Highness, developed by Messire Andre of Paris, hence its name. It is a variation on the stop-thrust, relying on the neglect of defence in favour of the attack. Its name means..."

Yes, von Smallhausen, I speak enough Frankish to translate 'a two widows' strike'.

"Yes, Your Highness. The stroke went slightly amiss, and my blade made contact with his sword arm, inflicting a severe wound, and causing him to drop his weapon. I assumed the fight was over, and lowered my guard - that was the hubris and neglect - but he switched his blade to his left hand and hurled himself at me. Then it was that I received my wound, and to my regret, I was forced to kill him."

"Regret, von Smallhausen?"

"Indeed, Your Highness. It is no small thing to me to take a man's life."

"But he would cheerfully have killed you - as indeed he has others."

"This is true, Your Highness, but then I am not a professional duellist."

"And this man was?"

"Yes, Your Highness. After the bout, I received, strangely enough, many congratulations from the other of the Electors' officers who were present. It should seem that this Herr Pataki had been a member of the Emperor Leopold's Guards, but was outlawed by the Emperor some years ago, for one killing too many, or perhaps killing the wrong man. It should further seem that he spent the years until now as a swordsman for hire, ending in the service of the Elector of Hannunter. His invariable practice, I was told, was to pick on the easiest of available targets. By so doing it was reckoned that he had slain thirty seven other men"

"I see. Well, von Smallhausen, quite frankly I do not know whether to reward you or censure you. I cannot have my officers roaming around the country dispensing retribution as they see fit, yet on the other hand, I cannot be but relieved that the series of attacks on my officers has ceased. On reflection, therefore, now that I have had the full tale from you, I am inclined to let matters rest as they are. Very well, you may return to duty. Von Rabensthal! At last! Where the devil have you been? The Herr Hauptmann and I are nigh perished with thirst!"

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Matters Medical

"Good Morning, gentlemen; my apologies if you have been kept waiting!"

"Good Morning, Your Highness."

"Good Morning, High-Born".

"Now, gentlemen, which of you is likely to take the longer to explain what you are about?"

"That would be the Arzt-General, Your Highness; my report is very short."

"Very well, Herr Doktor, please enlighten me."

"Your Highness, I have excised von Smallhausen's wound, and cleaned it thoroughly. The source of the mischief was a sliver of metal - no bigger than a fingernail clipping. The wound-fever and the draining of the wound have left him very weak, but barring any further complications, he should in time make a full recovery".

"Thank you, Herr Doktor. How much time?"

"That, Your Highness, will be as God wills it. I should say at least a month before he is fully fit, although his left arm and shoulder may be permanently weakened."

"A month! Before God, Herr Doktor, do you mean to tell me he will be bed-bound for that length of time?"

"Oh, no, Your Highness. With the blessing, he should be back on his feet in ten days or so. However, as he is likely to prove a difficult convalescent, perhaps Your Highness could provide him with some mental stimulation. If we can but occupy his mind, he may - I say may - be more receptive to his enforced idleness!"

"I see. Is there anything else you wish to bring to my notice? No? Then Thank you Herr Doktor. You are dismissed. Now Herr Doktor Arzt-General, what is so urgent that you must needs speak to me?"

"High Born, I have here the sick report for the entire army. It may come as a surprise to you, that at least thirty-five percent of your force is suffering from a bloody flux of the bowels!"

"What?! How shall this be possible? I thought that we had decided on the optimum scale of rations to avoid such complications!"

"Indeed we had, High Born, but no matter what we prescribe, the troops will always try to supplement their food with extra... ah, delicacies. The matter is not helped by the stupidity of some of your officers!"

"Explain, please!"

"High Born, I thought that everyone was aware that foul water, if consumed, will hamper the hardiest of constitutions, but what do I find? I find that my directives concerning the placement of watering sites and latrines totally disregarded - on the grounds that they are too difficult to enforce or that they would necessitate soldiers of one regiment passing through the lines of another, thus leading to pilfering, or, perhaps worst of all, 'it has always been thus'".

"Please continue."

"Yes, High Born. I gave the most strict instructions, that where access to running water was concerned that drinking water must be taken from the highest point upstream, below that should be the watering place for animals, below that an area designated for the washing of clothing and equipment and finally at the lowest point of all, the latrine area. Are my instructions obeyed? - of course they are not, and the result is this formidably long sick report! And of course, those individuals suffering from this malaise are not always able to reach the assigned latrine areas and their ordure, deposited where it may fall, thus poisons the very air and spreads the contagion! High Born, unless matters are addressed at the highest levels, in a very short time, you will not have an army left to disobey my instructions!"

"I see... but what do you expect me to do? You have your commission signed by me; as far as matters medical are concerned, you speak with my voice."

"High Born, you are too gracious, but I am afraid that there are officers with this army who do not hear your voice when I speak. They remark that I am not a real officer and not even a soldier and cannot, therefore be expected to understand military necessity nor the need to avoid disruption to routine, order and discipline. High Born - I have more than once been told to go away and play with my pills and my potions!"

"Have you by God! That I will not tolerate - you should have brought these matters to my attention 'ere now!"

"High Born, I do not like to play the role of informer, and I had hoped that patient reiteration of my instructions should, bear goodly fruit, but, as you see..."

"Yes, I do see. Very well Herr Arzt-General, I take it that you shall continue in your attempts to administer to the army? Yes, good. I shall tell you then, what we shall do. You and I, Herr Doktor Arzt-General shall make a tour of inspection of the various regimental areas and you shall show me where your instructions are disregarded and where you consider the various watering stations shall be best situated Somehow, I feel confident that my own voice, raised in displeasure shall have the necessary corrective quality. To that end, Herr Doktor, I require that you attend me here at half-past five of the clock tomorrow morning, when we shall commence our unannounced - you have a horse? Good! Let no word of what has passed between us escape, and with the Lord's Blessing we shall pick up this army be the heels and shake it until all the rubbish has fallen out of its pockets!"

"Thank you, High Born".

"Von Rabensthal!!

"Your Highness?"

"Von Rabensthal, please arrange to have a half-zug of Reiter to act as escort for me, tomorrow morning at half-past five of the clock!"

"Certainly, Your Highness."

"Oh, and von Rabensthal, you shall accompany me tomorrow. Ensure you have pencil and paper with you."

"Yes, Your Highness."

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

"Good Morning, Your Highness."

"Good Morning, von Rabensthal. What does the day hold for us?"

"Your Highness, Infanterie Brigaden 1 and 2 are to hold a field day, and this afternoon, at the close of which event, Your Highness is to review the troops involved."

"Yes, thank you; I had not forgotten. What else?"

"Your Highness, in the matter of the confirmation of the sentence of the General Field Court Martial...?"

"Yes. Again, I had not forgotten. I have read, most carefully the letter from the Hollander farmer. He states that it is known that his daughter was ravished, and as a consequence of the disgrace, she will be unable to find any further suitors. He begs that one of the offenders marry the girl, and that natural justice requires that both or neither must be spared, then he begs for clemency for both."

"Your Highness is, then, inclined to show mercy?"

"Yes, I am. I still feel that discipline must not only be upheld, but it must be seen to be upheld. However, the farmer raises a valid question. If we execute these men, then by whom and how shall restitution be made? So an argument can be made for the exercise of clemency. But! I will not have men running riot! Therefore I have decided. Both men will run a double ganteloupe, if they survive that then it is God's will. After the ganteloupe, they shall be stripped of their uniforms and turned out of the army. If the farmer still requires that one of them marry his daughter then he and they can resolve the matter between them! So, you will prepare an order for the punishment, and annotate the findings of the Court Martial accordingly. Understood?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Anything else?"

"Routine despatches from the Schloss, Your Highness, as well as personal letters for you, and... h'mm, for Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen!"

"Shall there be anything in the despatches requiring my personal attention?"

"I think not, Your Highness... Oh, there is a despatch from Herr General Himmelstoss, which he begs be brought to your attention."

"Himmelstoss! God in Heaven! He is good at his job, yet he makes my teeth ache! What does he want now?"

"It should seem, Your Highness, that the attrition rate amongst the train animals is higher than expected, despite the Herr Genera'ls assurance that, 'all necessary steps are being undertaken to ensure the well-being of the beasts'. Therefore, the Herr General respectfully suggests that in consequence of the junction of Your Highness' army with that of his Britannic Majesty, that Your Highness take advantage of the Britannic presence in the ports of der englische Kanal and transport the bulk of the army's necessary supplies by sea. Herr General Himmelstoss makes the point that... ah, yes, '...such a measure would not only alleviate the burden on the supply Corps, but would also be attended by pecuniary advantage...'."

"He does, does he? And does the Herr General give grounds to substantiate this claim?"

"Indeed so, Your Highness, the despatch is quite bulky, it should seem that most of the bulk consists of page upon page of arithmetical calculation. I confess, Your Highness, that I am no great mathematician, but it should seem that the figures do... add up...".

"Yes, thank you, von Rabensthal. I can manage sufficiently well without humour this morning!"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Well, you had better leave Himmelstoss's missive with me. It shall, I fear, prove to be tiresome reading, but if it should chance that his calculations prove to be correct, then it would be folly not to give them some serious consideration. Who is the most senior of the quartermaster-general's staff with the army? Von Frundsberg, the elder, is it not? Good, a letter to von Frundsberg, then, commanding his attendance at... nine of the clock, the day after tomorrow, if you please."

"Yes, Your Highness. Your Highness, there is one other matter..."

"Out with it, then."

"The Herr Doktor-Arzt-General has requested an interview with your Highness."

"Very well, on what matter?"

"He does not state, Your Highness, but insists that it is quite urgent."

"Very well, I had better see him I suppose. When shall I have sufficient time to do so?"

"Unless Your Highness has other matters to which Your Highness must attend, then before nuncheon today, is the earliest."

"Very well, he may have half-an-hour, from... twelve of the clock."

"Very Good, Your Highness. There is also the Herr Doktor-Chirug's report on Herr Hauptmann von Smallhausen".

"Ah, anything of note?"

"The Herr Doktor states that the treatment progresses well, and that he expects to purge the wound within the next forty-eight hours."

"Very well. let it be so done. In the meantime, I believe you said you had a letter for the Herr Hauptmann?"

"Just so, Your Highness..."

"Oh, a very pretty hand, and I do believe I detect a whiff of perfume...?"

"Indeed, Your Highness".

"Very well, I shall deliver this billet-doux to our wounded Hauptmann. It may be that it shall bring him some comfort."

"Indeed, Your Highness".